MetroPCS, the sixth largest wireless carrier in the US by number of current subscribers, has recently announced the launch of the “world’s first” commercial VoLTE network. For the time being, the only VoLTE capable handset is a modified version of the LG Connect 4G, but MetroPCS has promised to bring more VoLTE compatible smartphones to their offerings in the following weeks.
Note that Sotuh Korea’s SK Telecom made a similar announcement just yesterday. The Koreans said that they would offer a VoLTE service starting today, so MetroPCS’s “world’s first” claim should be taken with a grain of salt.
According to the official press release, the switch to VoLTE will be transparent to MetroPCS subscribers, as their phones will automatically place upcoming calls using the LTE network without having to make any adjustments to the phone’s settings. In addition, the official MetroPCS blog post also mentions that VoLTE calls can be placed and received regardless of the network that the communicating phone is using. This should mean that there won’t be any upgrades in the quality of the audio (which is the main marketing feature with Sprint’s HD voice network that the carrier plans to release by the end of 2012), but for the time being we can’t be sure that is the case. We’ll dig a little deeper and update this article when we get to the bottom of this.
Voice over LTE (VoLTE) isn’t a new concept, as we’ve seen three of the four major carriers in the US (Verizon, AT&T and Sprint) demoing this technology in the past, but it is slightly surprising to learn that MetroPCS is the first US carrier to actually turn on its VoLTE network and allow for calls to be made using the LTE technology instead of using the slightly outdated CDMA network. However, if we also take into consideration the fact that MetroPCS was also the first US carrier to launch an LTE network, this recent announcement doesn’t seem all that surprising.
At this point, it should also be mentioned that the transfer rates offered by the MetroPCS LTE network are not comparable with the speeds obtained by Verizon’s LTE network (or AT&T’s for that matter), but given that MetroPCS is but a minor carrier, I’m willing to let this slide. Are you equally tolerant? Let us know in the comment section below!